The Economics of Living with Roommates

Living with lots of housemates is a necessity for many people today, from those in college to professionals living in pricey cities. When moving to a new place for a job, your roommates are often your first “family.” Beyond this, finances force many people to live with several roommates for longer periods than in the past. An Atlantic article comments that what was anticipated by some as a cyclical phenomenon actually stuck with us. Living with a handful of strangers is still common, often across the country from family members, as people become increasingly mobile.

The economic benefits are pretty clear- roommates save you a lot of money. Rental costs are on the rise and many college graduates are burdened by debt, whereas housing is typically people’s biggest expense. MarketWatch claims that in the country’s biggest rental markets, “a renter can save on average 13% of [their] income by getting a housemate.” Since most of us can expect to live with other people for many years to come, it’s worth looking into some of the social costs and benefits of cohabitation as well.

Your living environment is a huge contributor to well-being. A stressful and toxic living situation can have real emotional costs, while a communicative and loving atmosphere can be a source of family and advice for young people far away from their family support networks. Several people interviewed on this topic agreed that the roommate relationship is a unique one, and often a “dating mindset” is helpful for the roommate search, instead of just living with strangers. Along with this, more dating-esque websites are popping up to find roommates, like These websites also encourage the use of signaling, in which people use specific signals, like mentioning their degree, to try to convey that they are responsible and will pay rent on time. Through these platforms and social media outlets, people can “date around” for a roommate and hopefully maximize the social benefits of what is usually a financial necessity.

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